Zolak & Bertrand

Zolak & Bertrand

Malik Cunningham was the star of the Patriots first preseason game against the Texans, showing off a skillset the franchise has never had at QB.

In a game that lacked excitement as the Texans won 20-9, Cunningham replaced Trace McSorely on the Patriots final drive, leading them 75 yards down the field for a touchdown.  He finished the game as the Patriots leading rusher with 34 yards on 5 carries. Also had a beautiful touchdown pass dropped by Tre Nixon earlier in the drive, before completing 3 of 4 passes for 19 yards.

Talking heads and fans haven’t stopped going off about Cunningham since, with Pat McAfee questioning on a daily basis how he went undrafted out of Louisville. Despite directly following Lamar Jackson at Louisville in 2018, there was never the same amount of success or hype surrounding Cunningham. Still, there were plenty of flashes of the ridiculous athleticism that everyone has been falling in love with.

Over 5 seasons, Cunningham threw for 9,660 passing yards and 70 touchdowns. What he did in the running game was his biggest strength though, accumulating 3,179 yards and 50 touchdowns over that stretch. That rushing touchdown total tied Jackson for the all-time record at Louisville.

Despite not being drafted though, Cunningham signing with the Patriots was still a historic moment. He inked the highest-guarantee for a UDFA in franchise history at $200,000. Not entirely shocking considering how much the Patriots had liked Jackson in the draft before the Ravens took him.

It was only a year ago that the Patriots signeda player with a similar skillset, but an even rawer overall profile in D’Eriq King out of the University of Miami. He was also an undrafted free agent like Cunningham.

So, let’s take a look at some of the plays that stood out from Cunningham’s college career. While he’s been getting work at both wide receiver and quarterback during camp, that wasn’t the case at Louisville.

  • 75-Yard TD run against Kentucky - 11/24/2018

    As a freshman, this 75-yard run against Kentucky was one of the breakout moments for Cunningham as he exploded through the defense after faking a handoff. He racked up 5 rushing touchdowns in his first season, totaling 497 yards on the ground.

  • 59-yard TD pass against Florida State - 9/25/21

    In 2021, Cunningham showed off some of his arm strength with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Harrell. The ball wasn’t underthrown by any means either, carrying 54 yards in the air. It was one of his 2 touchdowns on the day.

  • 43-yard TD run against UCF - 9/9/22

    During his final season at Louisville, Cunningham exploded down the left sideline against UCF for a 43-yard rushing touchdown. He didn’t hesitate to shush the crowd either, as the touchdown ended up being the game-winner for the Cardinals.

  • 40-yard rushing TD against South Florida - 9/24/22

    Another 40-yard rushing touchdown for Cunningham in his final season at the college level, with this one coming earlier in the year against South Florida. It was a ridiculous half for the former Cardinals QB, as he totaled 9 carries for 116 yards and 3 touchdowns.

  • 72-yard run against Duke - 11/18/21

    While Cunningham has a lot of impressive runs on his college tape, this has to be #1. He basically runs from one side of the field to the other, completely switching directions while pantsing Duke’s defense.

  • 16-yard pass to Payne Durham at the Senior Bowl - 2/4/23

    While this pass wasn’t a touchdown from Cunningham, it got a ton of love at the Senior Bowl for being an NFL quality throw. It also helped that he flashed his athleticism by taking the ball in for a touchdown one play later.

  • Surpassing Lamar Jackson's TD record - 11/26/22

    While Cunningham spent a lot more time at the college level than Jackson, setting the all-time touchdown record is still quite the accomplishment. He finished his career with 120 total touchdowns, which is just one more than Jackson who finished with 119.

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